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FLIPSIDE
AUTHOR'S NOTE
PROLOGUE
CHAPTER I
CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII
CHAPTER VIII
CHAPTER IX
CHAPTER X
CHAPTER XI
CHAPTER XII
CHAPTER XIII
CHAPTER XIV
EPILOGUE

CHAPTER IX

"Stop thinking of it as something crude." John said, pushing his plate aside. "Do you consider ordinary, non-oral sex with a female to be normal and even beautiful?"

"Yes."

"Do you know what we consider it to be? A necessary evil. Not in the strictest sense, of course, but you get the point. To us, it’s male-male sex that’s beautiful. It’s the male body that is beautiful. Procreation is just a biological function. The female enjoys it much more than we do. Oral sex is not the cruddy thing it’s usually portrayed as in skin flicks."

"You call them skin flicks? You can hardly see your skin."

"You can between our legs."

"Of course, I should have remembered."

"Do you see my point?"

"Intellectually, yes; but all of this still doesn’t change the fact that I do not want a dick in my mouth."

"You already know what it tastes like and you said that you didn’t mind. I think that you might even have liked it a little. It’s been scientifically proven that the scents and tastes associated with sex are pleasant and arousing. You just didn’t consciously realize it at the time and you won’t admit it now. What’s so terrible about it?"

"What’s so terrible about licking pussy?"

John squirmed. "Okay, fair is fair; I think it’s gross. Are you about to ask me if I’d be willing to do it?"

"Yup."

"Is it really a necessary thing to do?"

"Irrelevant." Mike said, shaking his head. "Oral sex is never a necessity, in both of our cases."

"Damn, got me. All right. To be honest, no. Smell or no smell, my face isn’t going anywhere near there. I don’t even want to see it."

It was Mike’s turn to just look on with raised eyebrows.

"Oh no you don’t," John said, "We’re not talking about that and what I would do in your world is not a factor. We’re talking about you and my world."

"All I’m trying to say is that you have to put yourself in my position. If you loved a woman and she wanted you to do that to make her happy, you wouldn’t do it."

"I’d have a choice. You have homosexuals on your world. I wouldn’t have to worry about females at all."

"Oh hell!" Mike said, exasperated.

"Gotcha."

"Are you saying that there are no heterosexuals here?"

"Not any that would admit it. Since all females die before seventeen, that makes them all minors. Admission of heterosexuality would mean therapy. Admission of actually practicing heterosexuality would mean prison. It’s a hard thing to get away with, a lot harder than regular child abuse."

"So it’s either your way or a monk’s way, is that it?"

"You already knew that. What you have to do is accept it. No hurry," John added quickly, "But you’re apparently here for good."

"Yeah, it looks that way."

"This isn’t a proposition, but what about being on the receiving end? Would you feel the same way having a man doing it to you as you do about doing it to him?"

"I don’t know. I guess it would be easier to have it done than to do it."

"Oh, Mike, you just blew it. No pun intended."

"What? Are you playing mind games again?"

"No," John answered emphatically, "But you just proved that we’re back to this manly thing again. You have an easier time accepting a man doing it to you than you doing it to a man. You think you’d be less of a man for doing it, and that’s wrong."

Mike didn’t say anything.

"Do you consider me less of a man because I do it? I’ve already told you that I’m not a virgin."

"No, of course not."

"Tell me the truth."

"I mean it! I don’t, not at all. You grew up in a world made that way."

"Then why treat yourself as anything less? You have to be good to yourself before you can be good to anyone else. You have to love yourself a little first. You have to understand that your manhood wouldn’t be threatened."

"What was your grade in psychology?" Mike asked with a smile.

"Three-point-eight. Am I right?"

"Maybe you are. No promises yet."

"Okay, I’ll accept that. Now, what about anal sex?"

"Where do you want to start?"

"Have you ever done it?"

"Yeah."

"To a female, I presume."

"Uh-Huh."

"Did you enjoy it?"

"It was okay. I’m perfectly happy to do without it. But if she wants it, I have no problem doing it. That is, as long as they’re clean."

"So you don’t consider it dirty or vile?"

"I understand that it’s not necessarily a natural thing. The ass is a one-way street by design, but I know that anal sex provides sensations that you can’t get otherwise. With the size of your prostate, I can understand what it must do for you."

"I assume you’ve never been a recipient."

"No, have you?"

"Yeah. Would you do it for someone you loved?"

"I already have."

"I mean if you loved a man."

"You realize that the first thing out of my mouth is going to be ‘no.’"

"Why not? It’s a known fact - and I’m sure homosexuals on your world would attest to this - that it stimulated the prostate, creating pleasure that can’t be experienced any other way. Even a finger or two doesn’t do it justice. Tell me, which would you be less apt to do, oral or anal sex? That is, assuming that you would be willing to do either."

"That’s kind of like asking me whether I’d like to be shot between the eyes or though the temple."

"Come on, be serious."

"Less apt? Oral. Most men would immediately say ‘anal’ because they wouldn’t really think about it. But since you’re making me consider this, I’ll have to say oral. What most men tend to forget is that a finger up the butt feels kind of good. Of course, I’m talking about a female finger, and she’s usually doing something else at the same time."

"I suppose that after you get used to it you could enjoy having it done to you. Oral sex, on the other hand, is more involved. I don’t know if I’m doing a very good job of getting my point across, but oral sex implies a greater degree of, I don’t know, submission than anal sex. You have to be completely involved. You have to actually put yourself right there and work at it."

"Submission. We’re back to the manly thing again. When you’re with a female do you give yourself to her completely? No reservations?"

"Yeah, for the most part, she can have me any way she wants me."

"And you don’t consider that submission?"

"No, not really. That can be fun sometimes, though."

"So what makes you feel that it’s any different with a man?"

Mike sighed, collecting his thoughts. "Because with a woman, the roles each play are built in. Deb would kill me if she heard me say it, but there’s never any question of who is who. It’s just a part of what we are as products of nature. If you want to get psychological, you can look at it like this: The male goes in and the female accepts him. You could probably psychoanalyze the entire subject of sex down to that one point. The female submits her body to be penetrated by the male. Although they may not necessarily play roles, that basic fact still remains."

"Throw away all the psychological factors and consider only the physical ones. Not to belabor the point; but physically speaking, the female allows her body, her being, to be entered. That strictly physical fact of nature suggests, to a point, submission."

"Even orally, it’s the same thing. The female is entered, only this time it’s her mouth. And when a man performs oral sex on her, it still doesn’t change. This time it’s his tongue. It all keeps coming back to the fact that she is the only one penetrated."

John looked unconvinced, so Mike quickly continued. "How many times do I have to say it? There’s an, I don’t know, fundamental element of submission that goes along with being entered; and that role is delegated to the female. She has to let you in. Where is that natural role with another man? Does the stronger dominate? What if there isn’t a stronger one? Does it become the stronger-willed? How do you know who you are?"

"I can answer that one easily. Like you said, playing roles can be fun. But with another man there is an equality that, because of what you just said, could never be possible with a female."

"Right." Mike said sarcastically.

"No, I mean it. Listen, with a man there isn’t that natural submission. Both are male, both are equal. By giving yourself to another man, you’re not submitting, you’re giving. They are not the same thing. In most cases, that man is going to give himself right back; so there is not tipping of the scales. Of course, some men are selfish in bed, but we’re not talking about them. Do you see? It’s a perfect balance. He can’t do anything to you that you can’t do to him, and visa-versa. Orally, it’s the same thing. Anally, it’s the same thing. He can penetrate you but you can do the same to him. Like I said, perfect balance. Hell, orally you can both do it at the same time. Where’s the submission in that?"

Mike thought that over and continued to play with the scraps on his plate. It was getting harder and harder to refute what John was saying. And damn it, it did make sense when he thought about it. Even so, the fact still remained that the desire simply wasn’t there. The best he could do at this point is somehow fall in love and with that they were a woman instead of a man. But to do that would be unfair to the other person. Who was he to refuse what they craved - to express their love?

"What are you thinking? I can practically hear synapses firing."

"I’m thinking that you’re making sense, but I still have no sexual desire to sleep with a man."

"Well, no one is expecting that right off the bat. What I want you to do is understand that loving another man and expressing that love sexually in no way makes you less of a man. The greatest thing on Earth is love, and the ultimate expression of that love is sharing it through each other’s body."

"What’s it like? I have to admit that I’m a little curious; in the clinical sense, that is."

John chuckled. "Well, where do you want me to start?"

"Kissing."

"I doubt that it’s any different for us than it is for you. We’ve already done it, and it worked fine for me."

"It wasn’t much of one, really."

"That just means that they’ll get better."

"It has to be different, your tongue is four feet long."

"Yeah, but we have a snout to fit it in."

"If I really kissed one of you, how would you keep from pulling my tonsils out?"

He laughed again. "I’m sure that wouldn’t happen. It’s not like I...they’d be kissing you blindly. Everyone knows where to stop."

"What about me? One wrong turn and your fangs would rip my tongue in half."

"They aren’t that sharp. You sure have a funny way of putting things."

"Humor helps me deal with reality. Why don’t you shred each other’s tongues when you kiss?"

"Because everyone knows where they can and can’t put their tongue. And like I said, they aren’t that sharp. Why don’t you bite someone’s tongue when you kiss them?"

"Our mouths would be open."

"So would ours. You just...know."

"Okay. How am I supposed to get a good seal with one of you?"

"Our lips are thinner than yours, but they’re still there."

"Pucker."

"What?"

"Pucker."

John did.

"Keep your damned tongue in."

John laughed and puckered again.

"Okay. You win there."

"Next? Oral?"

"Into the abyss." Mike said, rolling his eyes.

"It’s great."

"Where’s the fun in it? Giving, I mean."

"That’s a dumb question. Where would you use your mouth back home?"

"Breasts, genitals, neck, etceteras."

"Well, we do that too."

"You have no idea what a human’s tits look like."

"Tell me."

"Well, they have mammary glands, so you understand right away that there aren’t many truly flat-chested women."

John thought for a few seconds. "That follows. How many do they have?"

"Two, dumby."

"Hey, I can’t just go around assuming things. How big are they?"

"Sorry." In answer, Mike cupped his hands under his chest.

"You’re kidding."

"That should be about average. A lot of the time their smooth, and firm, and silken, and perky..." His voice trailed off and his eyes glazed over.

"They must look comical as all hell."

"To a race of flat-chested, glandless females they probably would."

"So you what, concentrate on the nipples?"

"Yeah, to a degree. Let me see yours."

"Why?"

"They’re just nipples, John. Let me see one."

John sighed and pulled one side of his shirt over. He pulled up a clump of fur to expose a dark brown nipple.

"Yours are bigger than mine but smaller than a woman’s."

"Okay." John said, smoothing down his fur and letting the shirt fall back. "Where’s the fun in it, and the other stuff."

"It’s just fun. You said you do it too."

"That’s lame. If you want to argue the point of why oral sex is fun, you’ll have to do better than that. You just proved my point."

"How?"

"By saying that you do it for fun."

Mike sighed.

"Look, you can’t just say that you do something for fun and leave it at that. You do know that all men have small glands down there that secrete scent, right?"

"Yeah, I read that somewhere."

"What makes you want to do sexual things, after you actually get started, is what?"

"You tell me."

"Sensation, scent, and taste."

"Agreed."

"Okay, so you get down there, right? Get that look off your face. You asked."

Mike made his face neutral.

"You get down there and the first thing you notice is the smell. Well, you’ve already noticed that, but now it’s strong. I’m sure, even with your nose, that your females can smell it. You can smell them, right?"

"Oh yeah."

"Okay, so the smell makes you horny. That’s only natural. Now that you’re down there and felling horny, you want to do something, right?"

"Go on."

"Faced with what you’re faced with, you know what you’re going to have to do, right? Kissing, licking, and sucking."

"I haven’t puked yet, so keep going."

"Okay, so next comes the taste. From what you read in your cell, you know we tend to...drip a lot."

"I should be jealous."

"You don’t?"

"A little, but it takes a while to get started."

"We’ve already established that the tastes associated with sex are arousing. So you’re aroused and the scents and tastes keep you going. Like I said, it’s a blast."

"I suppose you just have to grow up that way."

"Come on, Mike, think about it. Do you look upon your females with disgust when they do it?"

"Now, but they’re females."

"You’re arguing semantics. Females aren’t any different inside their mouth than you are. It’s okay for your females to like it because your society says so. If you tasted it, you’d like it." John ventured.

Mike blanched. "Would not."

"Why not?"

"Because it’s a guy."

"Eliminate the male and female for a moment and concentrate only on the fact itself. Can you do that?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if females tasted the same way as guys?"

"That’s kind of a pointless argument, isn’t it?"

"The point is that the taste itself, considered alone, is good. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a male or female. It just tasted good...when you’re in the mood, that is."

"Whatever you say."

"Can I say something really gross?"

Mike eyed him carefully. "How gross?"

"Really gross. It would serve to prove a point, though."

"In that case, no."

"Afraid I’ll be right?"

"Deeper into the abyss. Go ahead, be gross."

John leaned back and crossed his arms. "If you were really horny, I mean horny enough to squirm around like an animal because you were so horny..."

"I hope you aren’t doing this to seduce me."

"Oh stop it. Anyway, let’s say you were that horny right now. If you closed your eyes and I dabbed a bit of drip on your tongue, you’d like it. Guaranteed."

"That is gross!"

"Do you want to try and refute it?"

"The only way I could refute it is if I tried, and you know where I stand on that right now."

"You’ve already tried." John said smugly.

"Bullshit I have."

"Your memory is failing you. What did you say a few minutes ago?"

Mike thought for a few moments before it dawned on him. "Uh-oh."

"Gotcha again."

"You are a manipulative bastard."

"Psychology minor, remember? Three-point-eight?"

"That’s not the same. Almost all of it was gone."

"Which only means that it was more like drip than semen. Remember, semen is everything, drip isn’t."

"Okay, strictly for argument’s sake, let’s say you win and move on."

"You haven’t asked me how far it goes yet."

"I didn’t plan to."

"How far would a female go?"

"Until the bitter end. No pun intended."

"I don’t mean that. I’m talking territory."

"This is going to get gross again. We’re already pushing it."

"You wanted to know what it’s like."

"I know what to do, I just don’t want to do it."

"There may be differences. We don’t have that kinky fur down there, remember?"

"That just makes it easier for you, not different?"

"I noticed that you have fur in your crack."

"So? What are you getting at?"

"We don’t."

"So?" Mike asked with an annoyed sigh.

"So would one of you go...end-to-end, so to speak?"

"Why do you insist on being gross?"

"Because I want to be honest with you. I want you to know what you’re getting into."

"Who says I’m getting into anything?"

"Do you want to be castrated?"

"God, no!"

"Do you want to spend the rest of your life locked in a cell like the one you just came from? Do you want to spend the rest of your life in therapy?"

"I think I’m seeing where you’re going."

"It’s either our way or a monk’s way. I seem to remember someone saying that."

Mike put his face in his hands.

"I hate to be blunt and inconsiderate, but that is the bottom line, isn’t it? Just answer me. Forget about that stuff for now."

"It depends. Some will and some won’t. Surely that can’t be any different, it’s personal taste."

"Okay, let’s move on to anal."

"Might as well." Mike huffed.

"You’ve done it."

"Yeah. Doesn’t it hurt?"

"No."

"That’s easy for you to say now. You’re twenty-five."

"Are you asking if it hurt the first time?"

"For starters."

"Let me see...yeah, it did a little." John began thoughtfully. "But that was inexperience, not a physical factor."

"I don’t believe that."

"Why not?"

"Because no one shits a turd that big and likes it."

"How big is the average human?"

"Six and a half."

"No kidding?"

"No kidding."

"Wow." John sighed, his eyes going momentarily distant. "I thought guys like that only existed in movies. You’re that big?"

"None of your business."

"Come on, I’m still a zoologist. This is my job."

"I haven’t measured. I guess I’m average. How big should I be?"

"Five and a half is considered healthy."

"I should know better than to bring this up, but you looked bigger than that."

"You think so?" John asked with a smile.

"Don’t take that the wrong way." Mike chided.

"You didn’t look any bigger than average in the shower downtown." John said.

"My average or your average?"

"Mine."

"Well, conversely, you looked a lot bigger in the bathroom."

"This doesn’t make sense."

"Well, you were hanging at the time...this is getting sick."

"What difference does that make?"

"What about when you get an erection?"

"What about it?"

"Well, if you look big soft, than erect..."

"Are you saying that you get bigger erect?"

"Of course, John. Can we stop this?"

"No." John said, the zoologist coming on full song. "You get bigger when you’re hard."

"Yes! How can you not?"

"We don’t."

"Every creature on Earth with a dick gets bigger when erect."

"Not us."

"I guess I should take another look at that book. No, on the other hand, I won’t."

"You get even bigger!" John said with obvious envy.

"You’ve got nothing to be jealous about with those two-ton balls of yours. Let’s stop talking about my dick and get back on track. I said that I didn’t buy it when you said that it only hurts the first time. That’s bullshit. The sphincter is made to control bowel movement. Something forcing its way in is not going to be a pleasant experience."

"Sure it is. Look at it this way. There is a moment of resistance to overcome. Once you get passed that the muscle relaxes and then the pleasure starts. All you have to do is learn to relax. Didn’t you say that you’ve done that to females? Did they scream in agony?"

"Will you please stop comparing all of this to females?"

"Because every time I do, I win?"

"Because they are obviously no longer a factor."

"I have to find a frame of reference somewhere, don’t I? You have to consider what was happening when you were with them. You said that you would do anal sex if they asked. That implies that you wait to be asked. That implies that they wanted it and had to ask, right?"

"Yeah." Mike agreed angrily.

"Once you learn the proper way to relax, you just sit back and enjoy. We’ve already agreed on the fact that the prostate likes to have a little fun of its own, haven’t we?"

"Yes."

"Anyone who gives a damn about their partner won’t do anything to hurt them. You can pound away and do little good, or you can take your time, show a little concern, and both enjoy the hell out of it. Bottom line."

Mike blew a sigh into his bangs. "This is like arguing politics. It’s fruitless."

"It doesn’t have to be."

"Meaning what?"

"Mike, I don’t expect you to grab the nearest guy and go have sex just to see if I’m right. All I’m saying is that you can’t know what sex with a man is like until you have sex with a man."

"Don’t you end up needing diapers after a while?"

"Diapers!"

"Well, after having your ass reamed for so many years..."

"No!"

"Back home, half the standing homosexual jokes have to do with a worn-out butthole."

"It doesn’t ‘wear out.’"

"Pfffffffffft."

"Give me a pizza and I’ll give you a real fart. Besides, its not like you do it every time, or the whole time when you do. Sometimes it’s a little here, a little there..."

Mike chuckled. "If you say so."

"I say so."

"Of course, since you’re such a satyr, you probably have AIDS. Then I’d get it and we’d both waste away to a horrible death."

"What’s AIDS?"

"What do you mean?"

"What is it, a disease?"

"You don’t know what AIDS is?" Mike asked incredulously. "You have got to be kidding. It’s the goddamned black plague of the twentieth century!"

"Really? Tell me about it."

"I can’t believe this." Mike said with a sigh as he watched John’s ears perk up. "Maybe you call it something else. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It’s a sexually transmitted virus that systematically destroys the body’s ability to fight infection."

John’s ears jumped back and he wrinkled his nose. "Sexually transmitted? Yuck!"

"Well, you can get it from shared needles or blood, too."

"Ew."

"Doesn’t ring a bell?"

"A sexually transmitted virus? Hell no, it doesn’t. What’s the cure?"

"There isn’t one. The victim can’t fight infection, so the simplest thing snowballs. He just wastes away."

"Oh my God." John said with mild amazement. "Let me get this straight. It’s a sexually transmitted, incurable virus that eats up your immune system and eventually weakens you to the point of death."

"In a nutshell."

"Good Lord!"

"Good Lord is right! You don’t even know what it is! You’re not pulling my leg, are you?"

"Nope. If we had it, I’d know."

"What about the other ones?"

"Other what?"

"Sexually transmitted diseases."

"We don’t have any, thank God." John said with a shiver.

"None?"

"Nope."

"Come on."

"I’m not kidding."

"Herpes."

John thought for a few seconds, tapping a fang. "That causes cold sores, right?"

"Simplex one does. The other one kills you if not treated, and you have it for life. It isn’t really a problem unless it flares up."

"We don’t have that one."

"This is amazing! Do you have any idea how lucky you are?"

"I’m starting to realize."

"Syphilis?"

"Never heard of it."

"Wow." Mike said, pondering what John was saying.

"You don’t have any of that stuff, do you?" John asked, interrupting his thoughts. He was leaning back now instead of forward.

Mike chuckled. "No, I definitely do not. I had myself AIDS tested just for the hell of it about three months ago. So did Deb, and she’s the only partner I’ve had for years. The other stuff is more obvious. You can at least get crabs, can’t you."

"Genital mites." John amended. "That’s not a virus or disease, though."

Mike reached out and grabbed a bit of fur on John’s arm, lifting it and making a show of looking underneath.

"What are you doing now?"

"Checking for fleas."

John snapped his arm away. "I do not have fleas!" he said with a friendly growl.

"How can you go in the woods in summer?"

"Why?"

"You’d have to do a complete body search when you got home to check for ticks."

"Oh, yeah. It’s not so bad if you have help. They make repellent soap, too. It must be easy for you. You only have to worry about your head."

Mike propped his face on a hand. "Poor Reggie used to get ticks all the time. He was an insect magnet."

"Who’s Reggie?"

"The dog I had as a kid. Poor mutt."

"Do...did you still have him?"

"He died last year. I haven’t been able to get another dog yet."

"Oh no!" John said, jumping in his seat.

"What?"

"My cat! She’s still at my old neighbor’s apartment! I can’t believe I forgot!" he said, jumping up and getting the phone. He talked for a few seconds and hung up, sitting close to Mike. "I’m going to go get her today."

"Is she any particular kind, or just a cat?"

"Calico. She’s only about four months old, so she’s a little rambunctious."

"Have you had her de-clawed?"

"Declared? Are you sick?"

Mike looked at John’s hands for a second, noticing for the first time that his middle fingers’ claws were filed down. "I guess that’s not something you would think of for your pets."

"Why on Earth would you do that to a poor animal?"

"So they don’t rip apart everything of value."

"That’s what they make scratching posts for."

"Scratching posts are cheap. Cats instinctively know how much things cost. The more expensive, the more they like to scratch it."

"De-clawed." John said with disgust. "You humans are barbaric."

"I told you we have this thing about claws."

"I suppose you rip their poor little fangs out, too."

"No, we don’t. Stop being a putz. I’m not a shaved werewolf."

"Wolf."

"Sorry. I’m not a shaved wolf."

"I know, but don’t you think that’s kind of cruel?"

"That depends. If it’s just a house cat, not really. Inside, they don’t need them. But if you’re going to let them out, it might be a good idea to leave the claws alone. I saw a de-clawed cat trying to fight off another cat once. The poor thing was swatting away to no effect. I scared the other one off."

"Did you de-claw your dog, too?"

"Dog’s aren’t usually declared. Trimmed occasionally, but not de-clawed."

"What kind of dog was he?"

"A very, very big German Shepherd."

"I’ve never had a dog. Stepdad’s allergic to them."

Mike started laughing, making a sorry attempt to hide his face in his hands. "A werewolf allergic to dogs!" he thought.

"God this...is...weird!" he managed to choke out.

"What are you laughing at? You laughing at my stepdad? I’ll kick your butt."

"No." Mike said, calming down.

"You are, aren’t you? What’s so funny? Tell me or I’ll bite you."

"I thought I was the one who’s supposed to do the biting?"

"I could let myself get carried away with an affectionate little nibble. Maybe I’d like human blood." A growl crept into his voice. "Fess up."

"Never."

John grabbed Mike’s arm and tried to lift it to his mouth. Mike twisted it loose. "Just let me have this one little secret, okay?"

"Oh, all right, just this one."

"Don’t start talking like we’re married. I have another secret. Want to hear it?"

"Sure."

"I’ll never tell."

"You’re hopeless." John said, perking his ears up suddenly. "I could get a porno flick."

"That’s quite all right."

"If you really want to know what it’s like, that’s the best way to find out. Short of actual experience, that is."

"Pornos are mostly smut. I don’t need to see it to realize the pure mechanics involved." A brief flash of two werewolves in a torrid love scene crossed his mind and he fought it off with a smile. He hadn’t been able to watch enough TV to catch any love scenes.

"Not all pornos are like that." John prompted. "I know of one or two that are fairly good about that. They deal with people who actually love each other and have love scenes instead of sex scenes. They’re more like an R-rated, low-budget movie gone too far."

"And just how did we become so familiar with these movies?" Mike asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I love how your left eyebrow does that." John came back. "I wasn’t a Christian when I first got to college, so stop being evasive."

"I still think I’ll skip."

"Suit yourself."

"Besides, you’d probably get all worked up and rape me. You monsters get horny at the drop of a hat."

"Isn’t that a good thing?" John countered with a smile.

"It could be."

"You know," John began, turning thoughtful, "I’m sure that if our females grew up, or yours died, we would be sitting here trading stories of our various conquests instead of trying to wade through the differences."

"Been a successful crusader, John?"

"Usually. Last time I got dumped hard. I wanted to marry him. I had even been out looking at engagement bands. Thank goodness I didn’t buy any. He took off, completely out of the blue. I found out through a friend that he was banging some guy on campus. I guess he wasn’t willing to wait for me. I was as good to him as I knew how to be. Anyway, I haven’t seen him or anyone else since. That was, oh, about two and a half months ago. I think I’ll stick to guys my own age from now on."

"Sorry."

"Ah, it’s not like he’s the only fish in the sea."

"That sounds like a cop-out. He hurt you, didn’t he?"

A subtle sadness crept into John’s eyes. Mike immediately regretted saying it. He was being callous and it really wasn’t any of his business. It had been a senseless thing to say. John looked away, making him feel worse. "Damn, I’m sorry. I guess I should learn to keep my mouth shut. That was heartless." He put an arm around the furry shoulder.

John shrugged, twitching his ears a bit. "No, you’re absolutely right. He did. Like I said, I loved him. I should have known he would just walk away like that. He was only after my body. I guess I was too blinded by my own feelings to see that he didn’t share them."

"I was a basket case after he walked off." John continued. "I tried not to let is show, you know, but Mark wasn’t fooled. Most of my close friends weren’t, either. Now I just content myself to know that he missed out on more than I did. Not to sound vain, but I would have been a good catch. His loss."

"Attaboy. I sure know what it’s like to lose a loved one. Hell, I’ve lost everyone. I was engaged. I still can’t keep her completely out of my mind."

"I can’t imagine how rough that must be. To be so close..."

"What really bothers me is how this must be for her. I know this will sound a little self-righteous, but this must be hard for her. I mean, I just disappeared without a trace. She was probably in a panic all afternoon. I should have been back within an hour and a half, at the most. She has no idea where I am, whether I’m alive or dead, or whether I’ve been kidnapped or killed. Nothing. Sometimes not knowing can be worse than seeing them dead, you know? We were supposed to be married in a month and a half." He put his face in his hands and tried not to get upset. I will not cry again!

"Hey, she’ll be all right." John said softly, the words sounding strange to him. He reached around and gave Mike’s shoulder a squeeze. "You said before that she’s strong. I know this may sound cruel, but before too long she’ll get over you. Time does heal all wounds. She’ll make it and she’ll be happy again. I know that’s what is most important to you."

Mike sniffed the sting from his nose and managed not to cry. "Yeah, she’s a tough girl. She’ll find somebody. I just wish to God that it was me."

John didn’t know what else to say. He could tell that Mike hurt much more than he ever did. All he could do was hope to someday give him the love he had lost. He knew that his growing feelings for Mike weren’t rebounding symptoms. His experience with Keith had made him cautious. It wasn’t easy for him to fall in love. Mike, though, was just too incredible.

"I’m going downstairs to do some writing." Mike said. "You comin’?"

"I’ll be down in a few minutes."

He had been writing for almost half an hour when he turned to the guard who was sitting on the steps watching him. "Where’s John?"

"He was in the shower. He’s drying off now."

"Another shower?"

"Yeah, he said something about cologne but I didn’t catch it."

"Oh." Mike said, smiling. Now that John was washing it off, he discovered why he had been wearing it in the first place. Even though he had no idea at the time, he felt a little bad for saying that he hated it.

John came down a few minutes later and listened while Mike wrote for another hour. The phone rang upstairs and John jumped up to get it.

He answered it on the third ring, barely beating Paul. It was Doug. "Hey Doug, what’s up?"

"I was just wondering how things were going in the land of make-believe. Anything new to talk about?"

John almost said "no" before remembering what had happened earlier that morning, and their conversation that followed. "You wouldn’t believe it!" he said, struggling to keep his voice down. Mike continued strumming chords below.

"What?" Doug asked, his curiosity peeking instantly.

"Guess!"

"He ate one of the guards."

"No, this is better! Guess again!"

"John, I’m entirely too old for this."

"I kissed him!"

"What?"

"I said that we kissed. It happened right after we worked out this morning! It was..." He paused, trying to find the right word. "...Amazing. Best kiss I’d ever had, and it was only a little one!"

"Fantastic! So soon? After what he had said?" Doug asked breathlessly.

"Yeah, well, like I said; he’s still unsure of himself. Let me tell you about our conversation over breakfast."

Doug listened intently, allowing John to recount their conversation. John finally finished, catching he breath.

"Well, you were there, not me. What do you think?"

"I think I’m in love." John almost said aloud. "I think that I made him think."

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning that I made him think that loving another man might not be a threat to his masculinity. That seems to be the basis of his whole problem. He feels that his manhood would be threatened by having sex with another man. The mild disgust that he feels for the purely physical aspects will eventually dissolve when he realizes that the threat doesn’t exist. He says that he still has no desire to sleep with a man, but I think that after our conversation he may think about it enough to accept the proposition. Of course, he’s going to have some feelings for the man before he does anything. Hell, maybe one day he’ll get curious enough to try it, love or not. His curiosity has done in him once or twice already. He’s downstairs right now, but I don’t intend to let him avoid the issue. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be sure to tread lightly."

"Son of a gun. He really kissed you?"

"Well, actually, I kissed him. He said that I wouldn’t get a second chance, so I took it. He broke it off, though. Like I told Joe, I think he broke his own record for the brightest blush. I would have held it all day. God, Doug, I’ve never felt like that in my life! It took a minute just to get my breathing under control. Oh, I forgot to mention the IOU."

"IOU?"

"I’ve got a sighed IOU for another kiss?"

"Collect."

"I intend to tonight."

"How did you manage to get that, tie him up?"

"I made him feel guilty." John said with a chuckle. "I think he was being entirely serious when he wrote it, so I won’t be when I bring it up."

"Like you said, tread lightly." Doug warned.

"Oh, I will. I don’t want him to feel that I’m pressuring him, even though he promised. The last thing I want him to feel is that he has to kiss me."

"You’re a lucky bastard, you know that?"

"I’m not lucky yet. I’m only on first base, and I don’t know about the batters waiting behind me."

"Terrible analogy. Are you really serious about him?"

"Yeah, I think I am. It’s bizarre to consider, but I can’t help it. He’s irresistible. No one has ever made me feel like he does, especially in such a short time. And every time I look at him, I just..."

"You’re gushing." Doug interrupted.

"Sorry, it’s just that he’s so...lovable. And likable, too. There’s so many good things about him as a person, you know? I..."

"You’re still gushing."

"Okay, I’ll shut up."

"Just be careful. It could do irreversible damage if he were to think that you were put there to seduce him."

"Oh, I already made that point quite clear."

"How’s that?"

"Do you remember when he got really pissed that one night and I went in to talk to him?"

"Yeah. You know, I almost feared for your life."

"He’s just a man, Doug." John rebuked. "Anyway, remember how he looked at me during his little tirade as though that was exactly what he was thinking?"

"Yeah. Damn, I was going to ask you about that. Did you feel insulted?"

"Yeah, I did; and I set him straight on that one."

"Good. I’d hate to think that he would believe we would stoop so low. He is scary when he gets mad, though. I started having visions of horror movies. It’s sometimes hard not to let one’s imagination run wild."

"I know what you mean. There’s nothing else to say, really. He ate four pancakes for breakfast. I imagine he’ll spend most of tomorrow getting ready for his trip to the proving grounds."

"You mean ‘your trip to the proving grounds.’"

"I’m going?" John asked, caught off guard.

"Of course. Just because he’s leaving town doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do your job. You’re supposed to observe his acclimation and help him to adjust. Falling in love is a fringe benefit. Don’t let it cloud your judgment."

"Sorry, it just didn’t occur to me."

"I’m surprised no one mentioned it to you. I made sure Gordon understood that you went everywhere with him. I have a copy of the schedule myself. It’s Steve’s copy, actually, but he let me have a look at it. You’re included on the list of personnel to accompany him. If you had look at all the contracts you would have found yourself in them, as a condition."

"I haven’t looked. I didn’t think it was any of my business. I don’t want Mike to think that we’re coddling him."

"Good idea. From now on you can assume yourself to be included in any trips."

"Sounds good. How are things at the lab?"

"Jud has starting wetting himself in his sleep."

"Really? Do you have any idea why?"

"I think we’re being a little hard on him. It surprised me since he’s never done it before. It may also have something to do with the, uh, special training we’re been giving him, if you know what I mean. We’ve been giving him a little more of it lately."

"Yeah, I know."

"We’re cutting back on his schedule."

"How’s Mark working out?"

"Fine. He’s really taking on your job well. He doesn’t seem to mind the extra workload at all."

"That’s good. If you don’t have any more questions, I’d like to get back downstairs. I’m hearing some pretty unusual stuff."

"I can hear it too. I guess it’s a matter of taste. I’ll talk to you tomorrow."

"Okay, have a good one."

"You too."

John hung up and went downstairs. "What song is that?"

"Excitable. What do you think so far?"

"Play some." John said, falling onto the couch and listening for a minute or so. "Sounds cool. I like it."

"Who was on the phone?"

"Doug. He wanted an update."

"What did you tell him?"

"I said that you attacked one of the guards and what’s left of him is packed up in the freezer for later."

Mike smiled. "Really."

"I told him that we kissed." John said, holding up his hands when Mike started to protest. "It wasn’t an official kind of thing. I just couldn’t help it." he finished with a shrug.

"I suppose that I would have said something too." Mike said, picking out a few notes and adjusting the tune on one of the strings. "The bass track on this song is giving me hell."

"What’s the problem?"

"Well, I don’t have a bass, and I’m not very good with one anyway. I’ve had the same problem before. I have to be very careful to get the right notes. Most I have to take from memory because I can’t hear them. I also hate writing drum tracks. Maybe the piano will make it easier. Gordon said he would have one for me today. I hope it’s in tune. Either way, I don’t know whether the piano will do more than a little good."

"Sorry I can’t be of any help."

"I’ll get it right eventually."

Gordon showed up with the piano around lunch time. It took Gordon, Mike, and three guards to lug it down to the den. Mike played it a little, satisfying himself that it was in reasonably good tune.

"How’s the creative mind coming?" Gordon asked.

"Not too bad. The piano will help some. I’ve got two songs written and the one I’m working on now should be done soon."

"What’s this one called?" Gordon asked after Mike played a couple chords.

"Excitable."

"You’re going to drive people crazy with songs like that."

"Just as long as they buy the album. Have you got an add in the papers yet?"

"I sent them in yesterday. They’ll be in next week and run until the auditions themselves, which I’ve scheduled for a month from Saturday. That’ll give you time to get back from L.A."

"Sounds good." Mike said, quickly writing in the series of stanzas he had just gotten right.

"I might as well tell you the itinerary for Wednesday, unless you’d rather be left alone to write."

"Actually, I would. Right now I’m making good progress and I’d hate to loose the groove, if you know what I mean. You could write something down and I’ll look at it later."

"Say no more. I’ll come back tomorrow. I don’t want to cramp your style."

He left and Mike spent the remainder of the afternoon writing. John helped him with occasional comments or opinions.

Taking hints from John, Mike made quite a few alterations to some songs. A couple, he was sure, would sound radically different when recorded. He was careful, however, to preserve the integrity of the original.

He quit for dinner and they went upstairs to fix something. They ended up making meatloaf and watching two basketball games afterward.

They both headed for bed afterward, depressed that the Bulls had lost their game. Mike had just finished brushing his teeth and was walking into his bedroom when he saw John standing between him and his bed. He help up a piece of paper, waved it around a bit, and smiled. It was his IOU. "How about a good night kiss?"

"You are insatiable."

"Fair’s fair." he said, twirling the IOU through his fingers.

"It says ‘at a later date.’ This is still the same day."

"You meant later."

"Maybe, but it would be dishonest for me to not abide by the exact terms of the contract. That means tomorrow, at the soonest."

John’s watch beeped rapidly. He reached down and turned it off, smiling. Mike looked down at his own.

"Shit."

"Midnight." John said with an evil, fang-filled grin.

"I should have kicked you out as soon as I saw you."

"Too late now."

"It still doesn’t say that I have to kiss you today."

"Yeah, but don’t you want to get it over with? I won’t mention the fact that you’d be hurting my feelings."

"Don’t hit me with that guilt trip crap!" Mike exclaimed with a shared laugh. "There are plenty of men you can kiss in the interim."

"I don’t want to kiss any other men. I’m unattached at the moment, remember?"

"Are we going to stand here and argue about this all night?"

"Not if you give me a kiss. It will only take a few hours...I mean seconds. Of course, I’ll understand if you want to wait. I’m not a total snake, you know."

"Oh, what the hell!" Mike said in exasperation, walking to John.

John watched him approach, holding up his hands. "Stop, stop," he began, "Not like this."

"Not like what?" Mike asked, stopping in front of him and feeling slightly puzzled; and a little relieved.

"You’re only doing this because I’m forcing you again, and I don’t want to do that. I was only kidding, anyway. Here," he said, holding up the IOU. He tore it to pieces between them, dropping the scraps onto the bed. "A gesture of good faith."

"You didn’t have to do that." Mike said, looking down at the ripped paper. "Now I will feel guilty."

"No need to." John replied, shrugging.

Mike eyed him critically for a few seconds and John shrugged again, his ears at half mast. He looked positively pitiful.

"Oh, come here." Mike said, grabbing the back of John’s neck and pulling him into a kiss.

After overcoming the amazement at himself, Mike peeked and saw that John’s ears had perked up again. His eyes were closed and Mike couldn’t help but think that he looked kind of cute that way. He almost started laughing.

It was a longer, deeper kiss than their first. John was less shy with his tongue this time. It was a little more than he was used to dealing with, and he was unsure of how to respond. He could feel John’s fangs with his own tongue, and the taste of him was surprisingly nice. He decided to just do what felt right.

He broke it off again, John withdrawing his tongue a bit more slowly than Mike would have liked.

"Wow." John said softly, keeping the end of his snout close to Mike’s mouth.

"Satisfied?" Mike asked uncomfortably.

"That was extremely nice."

To ease his own mind, Mike took the analytical approach. "I have no idea what to do with all that tongue." he said, letting go and grinning nervously.

"You did all right by me. I’m always available for practice."

"I’m going to bed now. We have to get ready to leave tomorrow. We’ll probably be leaving early on Wednesday."

"Would it be too much to ask for another one?"

Mike thought for a few seconds. He was acutely aware of the fact that he had just kissed a man. Twice. The fact that John was a werewolf made it easier in a way because he didn’t especially look like another man, but he still didn’t like the idea. And he was starting to get mad at himself for liking it. John’s tongue was something else. He wondered what it would have been like if Deb had had a tongue like that.

Hell, I just found out!

John solved his dilemma by kissing him softly on the lips, keeping his tongue to himself. This time, it was John who pulled away first.

"I’ll satisfy myself with that for now." he said with a grin.

"I guess you will." Mike replied, giving him a chiding glance.

"I couldn’t help myself." John said, turning toward the door. He practically floated across the hall to his own room, turning at the door. "Pleasant dreams."

"God, I hope so."

"Good morning."

John looked up from the morning paper, setting his coffee down. Mike was on the front page again with another picture of the two of them in the yard. Half of the article dealt with speculation on their relationship. He found himself liking and disliking it.

The rest of the article asked the same questions they’ve been asking for weeks.

"Hi Gordon."

"Where’s Mike?" he asked with a loud sniff, hanging a camera around his neck.

"He’s still asleep. We were up until midnight watching basketball."

"Well, let’s get him up. We have to get ready for tomorrow. I have to be gone all afternoon, so we need to take care of this now."

"What’s happening this afternoon?" John asked, getting up and following Gordon down the hall.

"Are you kidding? I’m up to my snout in Mike’s career. I had to give my other clients to another partner just to give myself the time. I’m going through hell trying to keep all of this quiet until the commercial comes out."

They reached Mike’s door, which was closed. John opened it as quietly as he could.

They both smiled as Mike’s bed was revealed. He was sprawled haphazardly over most of it, the sheet wrapped around him and exposing his butt. That particular part of him was barely covered by the bikini-style werewolf underwear. His head was almost invisible underneath two pillows.

"My oh my." Gordon whispered.

"No kidding." John whispered back. Putting a finger to his lips, he slipped in and walked around to the far side of Mike’s bed. Smiling wickedly, he took his robe off, exposing his own underwear.

Moving as softly as possible, he crawled into the bed. Mike tucked in an arm, unconsciously making room for him. He leaned over the sleeping head, putting his snout close to Mike’s ear. "Good morning," he said quietly, "Time to get up."

Mike stirred with a groan. "What time is it?"

"My, you smell good. It’s eight-thirty." John answered. "And by the way, you were wonderful."

Mike turned over, rubbing sleep from his eyes as John surreptitiously tucked his legs under the sheet. "What do you mean..." Mike said, noticing John tucked under the covers beside him. His eyes widened and he slid back, pulling the sheet along with him.

"I mean you were wonderful, better than I imagined." John replied, making a show of stretching. Gordon raised his camera and snapped a picture.

Mike blinked and stared, unable to think. "You’re shitting me." he said, giving John a shove. "I would remember...and I want that picture."

John laughed and Gordon joined in from the doorway. Mike looked between them, still not awake.

"Okay, so I lied. You do keep the bed nice and warm, though."

"Get out, I have to take a shower."

"You’re mean in the morning." John said, getting out of the bed and putting his robe back on.

"Hi Gordon." Mike mumbled, rubbing his eyes again. "Give me that picture."

"Hi. Come on," he answered, walking into the room, "We’ve got to talk about our trip and then I’ve got to get back to the office."

"What’s the hurry?" Mike asked, allowing himself to be pulled out of bed. "Give me that picture before I bite you."

"No way." Gordon said, tossing the camera to John. "I’ve got your career to arrange, remember?" He pushed Mike toward the bathroom and took the opportunity to sneak a glance at his butt. John was already staring.

"I’m going, I’m going." Mike complained, outrunning Gordon’s hands.

I’ll be back in a few minutes. One of these days I’m going to stomp that camera to bits."

"Everyone likes to have pictures from home." Gordon said.

John snapped a quick picture just as Mike was closing the bathroom door. "Interested in water conservation this morning?" he asked.

"No. I’d be interested in some coffee, though; and that picture better not have included my ass."

"Of course not." John lied. "I’ll have coffee waiting."

"I pity the man who has to wake up with that for the rest of his life." Gordon said with a chuckle as they walked into the kitchen.

"Oh, I could get used to it." John replied. "Want a cup of coffee?"

"Sure."

As they sat at the table, Gordon gestured at the paper. "Have you seen page three yet?"

"No." John replied, turning the page. "What is it?"

"See for yourself."

The main story on page three was, of course, about Mike. Apparently, there were rumors that Mike might be signing contracts to advertise for as yet unknown products.

"How did this get out?"

"We leaked it." Gordon answered smugly.

"Really? Why?"

"To keep the level of public interest up."

"I thought the whole idea was to spring this on an unsuspecting public?"

"It still is. This will in no way diminish the impact when the commercial goes on the air in a week or so. Mike’s going to make a small fortune from this one alone. They’re going to be showing it a lot, from what I’ve been told."

"I thought he got paid after filming."

"He does, but he also gets a royalty each time it’s shown. I can’t say that I don’t mind the fifteen percent."

"Yowza."

"Yup. This guy’s gonna have me out of debt within six months. You know, I was really nervous about my FBI contacts for a long time; now I’m blessing them."

"How does an agent get mixed up with the FBI?"

"Well, I had a reputation for being an honest, fair professional. I never allowed myself to make use of some of the more unsavory methods of promoting my clients. However, I did have knowledge of how that sort of thing is done. I had to. How else could I expect to compete with those who did?"

He paused to take a long swallow of coffee. "Anyway, they approached me about four years ago to help them dig out some less than admirable types who were running a big scam in the industry. The investigation lasted a year, and there were dozens of arrests. You might have heard something about it."

"Can’t say that I did."

"No surprise there. Well, afterward I let them know that I was available if they needed help again. They were good to me during that time, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t on the payroll, but I got to keep any perks that came along. So," he said, gesturing back down the hall, "When our furless friend there showed up, they called me. They knew that they could trust me and that I’d be discreet and honest. Honesty doesn’t come often in my field. Boy, I found that out for sure."

"So here you are," John said, sipping coffee, "Making the big bucks with a monster."

"What about you? Zoology doesn’t seem to be an FBI type of job any more than mine."

"Didn’t you get all of that from the conference, and the fact that half of my life is now public record?"

"I’ve heard what everyone else has, for what that’s worth." he said, smiling suddenly. "Any truth to what Doonsbury’s been saying and everyone else is guessing about?"

"No, not yet. As for me and the Bureau, we were trying to ascertain primate intelligence for them."

"What would the FBI possibly do with a human? I mean ape." he added to correct himself. "I keep forgetting to amend my use of the word ‘human.’"

"I don’t know, I just did my job every day." John lied.

"...And now you’re the cultural liaison and boyfriend for a thinking man’s wereman."

"Something like that." John agreed with a chuckle.

"So this ape just walked out of the FBI branch headquarters?"

"No. We had him at the zoological park. They called for us to go downtown when Mike was on his way up."

"Was it hard working with an ape?"

"No. He was fully domesticated. The Bureau had him since birth, and always treated him well, so he was pretty cool. Poor guy’s never even seen another ape. We even catch him jerking off now and then."

Gordon chuckled. "This may sound like a morbid question, but can humans, you know..." He asked, bobbing his head slightly.

"Nope." John answered with a smile. "And speaking of humans, Mike can’t either."

"Really? You know, it’s funny how he refers to himself as being human. Do you think his kind evolved from them?"

"No, the genes don’t quite fit. Also, he says that, where he comes from, apes have fur. Genetically speaking, they do seem to be related. Hell, genetically speaking, he’s closest to us."

"No kidding?"

John slid closer, perking up his ears. "Did you know that if he had fur, real claws, a normal spine, and a skull like ours, he would be a wolf?"

"Uh-uh."

"Under the skin, he’s exactly like us. Every organ, every vessel, every lymph node, every bone; everything is exactly where it should be. Exactly. The few differences are pretty much academic."

"The skull’s obvious. What’s wrong with his spine?"

"Too many vertebra and not enough cartilage. That’s why he can’t, you know..." John answered, mimicking Gordon’s head bob.

"What about his eyes? He can’t see in the dark, right?"

"They don’t glow, either. His sensory limitations are mostly due to the configuration of his face and skull. He hears as well as us with headphones on, but can’t gather outside sound as well."

"That’s obvious."

"Right. He can’t smell nearly as well, but we don’t have the equipment to measure exactly how much. That’s also kind of obvious, seeing that he has no snout. All I know is that he loses a fresh scent in minutes."

"Minutes?" Gordon asked, surprised.

"If you walked out now, and he came in ten minutes later, he’d never know you were here."

"Wow."

"Of course, we’d be able to tell days from now. As for his night vision, I don’t have any answer for that. There seems to be no reason for the physical difference causing his lack of it. If he wasn’t familiar with the layout of a dark room, he’d probably trip all over everything."

"It’d be fun to watch." Gordon said with a snort. "Speaking of which..." he added as Mike appeared from the kitchen.

He joined them at the table, straightening his bathrobe. "So, what’s on the itinerary?"

"We’ll take a van to the lake, a ferry across to Michigan, and another van to the proving grounds; complete with a few guards. Once we arrive, we will be directed to a small warehouse for a briefing on what you’ll be doing for the commercial. You’ll drive the car from the warehouse so no one, especially spy photographers from the automotive press, will see you driving. A black Talon is being prepared with limousine-black tint on the windows. You’ll be invisible inside."

Gordon smiled as he went on. "My idea sold. You’ll be unleashed on the grounds, following a well marked course. Cameras will film your antics from various angles and the shots will be edited later. One camera will be mounted where the passenger seat would normally be with another in the back seat. After that, all you have to do is drive back into the warehouse and get out. Everything will be covered in complete detail in the briefing. For instance, your exit from the car will have to be orchestrated so that your movements mirror those of the guy in the commercial. That will assure a smooth fade, which will occur as you step out."

"Sounds like fun." Mike said when Gordon had finished. "How much time to I get on the track?"

"I have no idea. I’m sure that you’ll get plenty. They already have an idea of what they want the commercial to look like, so they’ll have you keep driving until they get the shots they want."

"I just thought of something funny." Mike said. "I’m the only person on the planet without claws," He held up a hand. "And I’m doing a Talon commercial."

"So stop biting them." John said.

"One more thing," Gordon started, "I’m supposed to tell you this now, even though it will be covered at the briefing. Under no circumstances are you to even crack the windows during your drive. Chrysler does a lot of prototype testing there, and spy photographers are always prowling. We don’t want to give any of them a big bonus on payday. If anyone needs to talk to you, they’ll yell through the window. Am I absolutely clear? It’ll ruin everything if you’re seen."

"Yeah, I got it."

"Okay, make sure you’re packed for a few days. The weather’s supposed to be perfect, but it could go bad. We’ll be staying until it clears up."

"Gotcha."

"Good." Gordon said, downing the rest of his coffee and standing. "I’ve got to go. I’m trying to line a few things up, if I can convince people to keep their mouths shut. After the commercial airs all of this won’t be necessary. What a relief that will be. People will start coming to us."

"What are you trying to line up now?"

"I’ve got those auditions to get organized. I’ve rented an auditorium for it under an assumed name. We’re planning on a big response. I’ve also got to set up some interviews and the like. I’m hoping we can get you on a talk show once you have a band together. Plan on being busy for a while. Once you have a band put together, it’ll really get fun. Oh, by the way, do you have any idea who you might want to produce the album? You’ll need a producer."

Mike did, and told him who he wanted.

"I’ll try," Gordon said, shaking his head and grabbing his camera, "But that’s in the future, anyway. I guess I’ll go. Are you going to be writing later?"

"Yeah, I want to get this stuff done so it’ll be ready when the time comes."

"I like you, Mike. It’s nice to see talent responsible enough to not need to be babied."

"I do my best." Mike replied, saluting with his mug.

They finished their coffee, reading the paper.

"Doonsburry is really getting on my nerves." Mike said as he showed it to John. "I wish he would shut up. They’ve been very careful to avoid any pretense of covering me up and he still feels it necessary to bring it up. How more public can you be than a press conference?"

"That’s just the way he is, I guess. He has his place. He just picks on whoever is in power. He was the same way to the democrats way back when. And remember, it’s been a while since the conference."

"Yeah, but he’s trying to turn the whole thing into some kind of right wing conspiracy."

"You can’t take him too seriously, he’s a humorist. He’ll shut up when you show up on Arsenio. And now, I have to go get my cat. I’ll be back in an hour or so."

"Where’s the litter box?"

"In that little room downstairs."

They went to their rooms, dressed, and packed. Mike puttered around the house for a while and then decided to do some cleaning. He got the pile of dirty clothes from John’s room, added it to his own, and started the laundry.

John came in later, holding his partially terrified cat. He wondered how she would react to Mike. She generally took to new people pretty well, but Mike was a monster, after all.

He heard the vacuum running as he started down the steps to show Sesame where the litter box was. He looked in surprise to see Mike doing the vacuuming, having first assumed it was a guard. He started laughing.

Mike heard him and looked up. "What?"

"I’ve never seen a wereman vacuuming before." he answered, letting Sesame go.

Mike turned the vacuum off and shot him an insulted look. "Why don’t you finish the job so I can laugh at you?"

"Sorry."

Mike squatted down and called to the cat. "What’s her name?"

"Sesame."

Mike held out his hand and called to her again. She walked over without hesitation and started rubbing his leg.

"Well, that test worked out. If you were a demon from hell she wouldn’t have gone near you."

"Ha ha. At least I don’t have fangs."

"Your loss."

"You know, I’ve been wondering something." Mike said, sitting down and letting Sesame attack his shoelaces. "Why do you have fangs at all? It’s not like you go around hunting animals with your bare teeth. Or is that something you’ve been hiding from me?"

"Don’t look in the freezer. I was at the zoo yesterday."

"Seriously."

"I don’t know. I guess at some time we did hunt like that. We’ve only been writing history down for the last couple thousand years."

"Great. Some night your primal instincts are going to surface and I’ll end up a pile of bloody bones."

"I’d clean the blood off. I’m not a slob."

"Well share a little of me with her." Mike said with a laugh as Sesame started chewing his ankle.

"I imagine that our fangs will evolve themselves away in time. They’re not really good for much now." He sat beside Mike and Sesame changed victims, attacking one of his shoes. "Except for...ouch! Except for affection, that is."

"How can you be affectionate with fangs?"

"All the better to nibble on you with." John said, leaning closer.

"Keep your snout away from my neck." Mike said, leaning away.

"I’m not going to rip your throat out."

"There are things about my throat that you do not need to know."

"Sounds like another one of ‘those’ things." John said with a smile. "I’m a zoologist, tell me."

"No."

John moved closer again, trying for a kiss this time. Mike almost got up, debating whether or not to let it happen. There were no IOUs to worry about, but he at least had to make a good show of trying. He decided not to, but was too late.

He closed his eyes and felt John’s lips brush his own. John didn’t kiss him, though. He slid his snout under his chin and began kissing the underside of his jaw and neck.

He had found Mike’s weak spot. Mike was caught off guard and turned immediately to jelly, leaning slowly back as John nuzzled his throat.

"Stop." he said helplessly.

John didn’t, but looked up and kissed him a few seconds later. Mike’s eyes were closed and he looked practically asleep.

"Ohmygodohmygod I’ve hit the mother lode! He’s Jell-O!" John yelled silently.

He dove back in, causing Mike to groan.

"He groaned!"

"Stop." Mike said again, reaching up and weakly grabbing John’s head. He managed to push him away. "Stop!"

He struggled back up to a sitting position as his mind cleared. John let him up, the knowledge of his new discovery solidly tucked away. A renewed kitten attack helped Mike regain his senses.

"You are not allowed to do that!" Mike said loudly, giving him a push.

John chuckled evilly. "I’m going to make you my slave."

"Not allowed!" Mike asserted again as John made a move toward him. He crawled away and stood.

John remained sitting and laughed. "You’d be all mine if I sneaked in and woke you up with that."

"All the more reason to lock my door at night." Mike said, embarrassed that John had discovered his one true weakness.

"All it takes is a seven-penny nail."

"That’s why I’m going to use the door stop from the garage."

"Not if I beat you to it." John said, jumping up and bounding for the stairs.

Mike was closer and ran ahead of him, turning down the hall with John right on his tail. He made a flying dive for the door stop, grabbing it and protecting it under his chest.

"Give it to me or I’ll tickle you."

Mike turned over and jumped to his feet. He stuffed the rubber stop into his pants.

"Oh oh oh." John said through a chuckle. "That was a mistake. For you, I mean. Do you think I won’t try for it?"

Mike turned and ran for the back door to the garage. He slammed it in John’s face and ran out into the yard, stopping a few dozen feet from the house. One of the guards shook his head.

John opened the door and stepped out. "You can’t hang out here in the yard all day."

Mike sat. "Yes I can."

John shook his head as if to give up, then sprinted for him. Mike jumped up and ran, narrowly escaping John’s grab. He was halfway across the front yard when the door stop fell out of his pants.

He braked for all he was worth, but couldn’t get turned around fast enough. John scrambled to a halt and grabbed it.

"Ah-hah!"

Mike tried to look threatening and started for John, flexing his muscles and balling his fists. "Give it to me." he growled.

John laughed. "I’m not falling for that! You’re no more of a monster than I am!"

Mike stopped and put on a confused look. "So, what’s your point?"

"You can’t have it." John said, putting it in his pants. "Unless, of course, you want to come and get it."

"Satyr."

"You did it first."

"I wasn’t inviting you to come for it."

"You implied it."

"Do you think I would? Come on, I’m hungry."

"So...feed." John said, widening his stance and holding his arms out at his sides.

"Do you know how you must look to all of those cameras?" Mike said, shaking his head and walking to the front door. "You are a totally hopeless case, you know that?"

"I’m a man. We’re notoriously horny."

"You’re a satyr."

"If God gave me a one-track mind, I may as well use it."

When lunch time came, they decided to eat on the picnic table out back. Mike could see a photographer taking pictures from a nearby yard, two guards watching him warily. Mike tried to ignore the camera and concentrated on his sandwiches.

"Let’s give him a good picture." John said around a mouthful. "I’ll do the beat, and you do a strip tease on the table."

Mike punched him, laughing. "That would be a show, wouldn’t it?"

"It would be from this view."

"I’m almost tempted to do it just to spite you."

"You don’t see me holding you down, do you? Come on, I’ll do one with you."

"I don’t think so."

"Oh come on, live a little. Let them know that you have a sense of humor."

"I’m not the strip tease type."

"You’d better be if you want to make videos for those songs. You know that they’re going to want you to spend a lot of time in front of the lens."

"I’m going to make it plain that we are to be filmed like any other band."

"Sure, but come on, what kind of video do you expect to make for a song like Pour Some Sugar On Me?"

"We could make it a typical band-on-the-set video."

"That wouldn’t do the song justice."

"What do you expect me to do, lie there while they squirt honey on my belly?"

John snapped his fingers, perking his ears. "Perfect! I get to lick it off!"

"No!"

"Why not?"

"I’m not going to do sleeze video. I have morals, you know."

"Mike, I know this is going to come out sounding wrong, but you are going to be a model and a rock star. Your body is going to be your selling point. It’s something no one else has. There is nothing wrong with being sensual. It’s not the same thing as being sleezy. How many times have I told you how sexy you are?"

"I still don’t buy it."

"Why not?"

"Because to you I look, I don’t know, bald. My face is flat, I don’t have fangs or fur..."

"We’ve been through all of this before." John interrupted.

"How do you know that your opinion is shared by the general public?"

"Because I’ve read the polls."

"Polls?"

"And friends. And my parents. They’re all insanely jealous. Haven’t you been reading the papers?"

"Jealous of what? You haven’t been bragging about hose kisses, have you?"

"No, of course not. Doug’s the only one I’ve told besides my dads. Did you know that one of those supermarket rags did a survey this week and eighty-six percent of those polled thought you looked sexy when we were running in the yard?"

"You’re kidding."

"Nope. Paul told me just before Gordon walked in. I’m surprised he didn’t mention it."

"Great. Eighty-six percent of Gay America wants my bones." Mike said with a sigh.

"You’re the gay one, remember?" John joked.

Mike huffed. "Yeah, I guess I am."

The phone rang and they both went in. Mike answered in the kitchen and John picked up the living room extension.

"Hello."

"Hello. Is John Carter there?"

"May I ask who’s calling?"

"Rick Lorrah."

"Rick, this is John." he said from the living room. Mike, feeling guilty, listened in.

"John, I’ve gone through hell trying to get in touch with you. That Cooper guy wouldn’t give me this number until I told him why I had to call you. I practically had to say the Pledge of Allegiance to get it."

"I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time for anything else."

"Karen misses you."

Mike raised his eyebrows.

"Can you come over any time soon? She’s been asking about you."

"Uh, hold on." John put his hand over the receiver, and Mike hung up.

"Mike."

"Yeah?" he answered, walking over.

"Do you mind if I take off for the day?"

"No. You’re your own man. What’s up?"

"Hold on." he said, returning to the phone. "Yeah, I’ll be over in about, oh, forty-five minutes. I’m sorry I haven’t been around."

"That’s okay. I’ll see you soon, then."

"Okay, bye." John hung up, turning to Mike. "I have to go see Karen."

"Karen?"

John seemed uncomfortable and shifted nervously. "Karen’s, uh, a friend of mine. I’ve known her since she was nine. She lives a couple of doors down from my old apartment."

"Why are you so nervous all of the sudden? Ohhhh..."

"Well, she’s almost thirteen. It won’t be long, now."

"Wait a minute. What won’t be long?"

John fidgeted some more, looking at the floor. "Well, um, I guess she’s going to choose me to...oh hell, who am I fooling? It’s obvious." He looked up at Mike. "When it’s time for her to mate, she’s going to want me."

"Really?" Mike said, smiling.

"It’s not funny." John said defensively. "Anyway, I spend time with her, play games, take her to the mall or a movie, and that sort of thing."

"If I remember correctly, the kids will be yours to raise, right?"

"Yeah."

"What are you going to do then?"

"I don’t know for sure. I was expecting to be married before I had kids to worry about. I’d better get going."

"Have fun."

"Yeah." John said, grabbing his keys and heading out.

Mike thought about John as he headed downstairs to his music. John had seemed so nervous. Was sex really that scary to them? Fun or not, it was only natural. Even the thought of it made John uncomfortable. If it is so awful to them, why don’t they just die out?

"Ah," he remembered, "The smell." That and the socio-personal responsibility seemed to be the reasons. Social responsibility and personal debt seemed like a pretty fragile basis for the survival of your race.

One life for a couple more. The sense of responsibility was inescapable, he surmised. If you consider their homosexual lifestyle it seems obvious how it would be disgusting to them. They grew up that way. He still had trouble grasping that.

He turned his attention to his music, writing for the rest of the afternoon. John called to say that he wouldn’t be home for dinner, so he made himself a couple toasted cheese sandwiches. Gordon called while he was eating to let him know that they would be leaving at six o’clock tomorrow morning, so he should go to bed early.

He was asleep before John got home.

They woke him at five o’clock and he stumbled into the shower. After he had gotten dressed, they discussed the upcoming day’s work. Everyone was understandably anxious, especially Mike. He voiced his concern between gulps of coffee and drags from one of John’s cigarettes. "What if they change their minds?"

"They won’t." Gordon assured him. "Besides, they sighed a contract. If they change their minds, they still have to pay you half. Remember that part? Aaron made sure that it went in."

"I know, but it still wouldn’t look good."

"Stop worrying." John said.

"I can’t help it. I’ve never done a commercial before."

"Look at it this way: You’re getting paid sixty thousand dollars plus royalties, minus Gordon’s fifteen percent, to drive irresponsibly for a couple of hours. It sounds like fun to me."

"You’re right, but I’m still nervous. What if I wreck?"

"There’s nothing to wreck into." Gordon replied. "You’re going to be driving on open tarmac."

They drank coffee and talked until six, when Gordon herded everyone out. Mike rode in the van with his guards, Gordon, and one of Gordon’s partners from the office. John followed in his car.

"What about the press?" Mike asked Gordon. "Won’t they follow us?"

"Yeah, but they’ll only know where we’re going, not why. Security will keep them away."

They made good time to the docks, pulling immediately onto a waiting private ferry. Mike put on a sweater and stood along the side, watching the water and his strange new world roll by. From a distance, everything looked so normal.

They were already in the van when the ferry docked in Michigan, pulling straight off and driving quickly to Chelsea. A security guard directed them to a small warehouse just off of the proving grounds itself.

The briefing went as Gordon said it would. The executives from their previous dinner were there along with a model, professional driver, and film crew.

The commercial took all day to shoot. Mike was surprised that it was taking so long because it would only run thirty seconds. They filmed his exit from the car first, which took almost half an hour to get right. After that, it was all fun.

The course that had been laid out called for numerous power slides on a watered-down section of the grounds. Mike had a blast wringing out his favorite car again. He was genuinely depressed when the director yelled that it was time to park the car and turn it over to the professional driver. He almost considered making a break for it.

He blasted into the warehouse and slammed on the brakes, keeping them just short of lock-up. He climbed out, a sly grin on his face, as everyone emerged from where they had scattered to. Gordon was shaking his head and staring at the floor.

"That was great. Let me know when you want to do it again. Is tomorrow too soon for you?"

One of the executives laughed, shaking his head. "Well, maybe not that soon."

"That’s a wrap, by the way." the director called out. "Damndest commercial I’ve ever shot."

"How long before the finished product?" another executive asked him.

"I’d say four days, to be safe. We’ve already got the prime time air, so it’s just a matter of editing the thing and delivering it. Since we already have the whole thing drafted out the editing won’t take that long. Mastering can be done in a couple of hours."

After filming they were all taken to an expensive restaurant for dinner, their Eagle pals picking up the tab. Although their arrival caused quite a stir, the press never had a chance to arrive. Also, no one had any idea what Mike was doing in Chelsea.

They presented Mike and Gordon a check after dinner, toasting the deal with glasses of champagne.